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Hospitalizations hit another record high for a fifth day this week; Cooper says more reopening 'not off table'

Although North Carolina recorded its highest one-day total of new coronavirus infections on Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper said he hasn't yet closed the door on moving to the next phase of resuming business and social activities amid the pandemic in the next couple of weeks.

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Matthew Burns
, WRAL.com senior producer/politics editor
RALEIGH, N.C. — People hospitalized with the coronavirus hit another record high on Saturday, for the fifth time this week. Over 1,100 people have died, and 42,880 people in North Carolina have tested positive for the virus.

But, Gov. Roy Cooper said he hasn't yet closed the door on moving to the next phase of resuming business and social activities amid the pandemic in the next couple of weeks.

"These numbers and trends are sobering," Cooper said at a news conference Friday afternoon.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, noted that the rate of positive tests is "among the highest nationwide." The state has topped 1,000 new cases four times in the last seven days, she added.

The rolling, seven-day average of infections is 1,142 a day over the past week, which is the highest average to date in the pandemic. Likewise, the rolling average of people hospitalized with COVID-19 is at a high mark of 753 per day, although the daily number of hospitalized COVID patients dropped Friday to 760 from Thursday's high of 812.

The number of people hospitalized in our state continues to rise. And while beds are filling up, experts say they expected this with the state reopening and protests happening and they are prepared for more cases to follow.

"Not only do I see our percent of positive tests go up, our number of hospitalizations go up and it’s telling me more people are becoming seriously ill in North Carolina,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of the NC Department of Health and Human Services.

"This virus is still very much present in our communities," Cohen said on Friday afternoon.

Despite the trends, Cooper said he and his health advisers are still weighing whether to move North Carolina into the next stage of their three-part pandemic recovery plan. When he announced the move into Phase 2 of the plan last month, he said it would last at least five weeks, and that period would end June 26.

"Neither one of those phases is off the table," he said when asked about moving to a Phase 2.5 or Phase 3, which would allow more businesses to reopen and larger groups of people to gather.
State lawmakers passed legislation this week that would allow gyms to reopen at half capacity and allow bars to resume operations by serving customers at outdoor seating areas. The governor, who last week vetoed a separate bill on reopening bars, said he is still reviewing the latest measure.

"Obviously, we would rather do [reopening] through executive order because I think that legislation makes the process much more clumsy," he said, declining to say whether he would veto it.

Cooper said it's up to people across North Carolina to ensure that virus cases don't spike in the coming weeks, which could force more shutdowns.

"I know people are tired of this virus, but it's still deadly. We can't let our guards down," he said. "Our numbers aren't where we want them to be, but it doesn't have to stay that way."

"Early on, North Carolinians came together and proved we can flatten the curve," agreed Cohen. "We can do it again."

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